Sunday, September 12, 2010

Character Generation: Archetypes

In the last few posts, I've occasionally mentioned "archetypes." As bloodlines tell where a character comes from, an archetype tells what they do. The first thing to note, in contrast to D&D, is that archetypes are purely optional. In D&D, your class is who you are. In Fate, things are more flexible -- you can make a character who specializes in anything, or in nothing at all, with a random assortment of skills and stunts. However, some guidance can be helpful, and certain types of character are traditional in the high fantasy genre. Hence: archetypes.

Each archetype is a profession or vocation, with recommended skills and stunts for the character to choose in order to be most effective. Each archetype has two or three sub-types, or "builds," reflecting different ways that type of character could go.

The archetypes are:

  • An extremely rare character type (unless paired with magic as per the D&D Bard), the performer or painter isn't terribly useful in many RPGs -- but as two bloodlines in the City hold art in the highest regard, the Artist is far more useful in the City than they might be out dungeoncrawling.
  • Builds: Artiste, Avant Garde, Artistic Crafter
  • An unconventional character type, I nonetheless feel the runner (inspired by Mirror's Edge) and acrobat have serious potential in a primarily urban setting.
  • Builds: Equestrian, Runner, Acrobat
  • This character type is loosely analogous to the "spellsword" or "magic knight"-type character, capable of swinging sword in one hand and slinging spells with the other.
  • Builds: Elementalist, Battle-Form Shifter
  • A classic character role, capable of sneaking, opening locks, and disarming traps. Simple, basic, but useful.
  • Builds: Assassin, Cutpurse, Second-Story Man
  • This character role -- a leader of men, focused on assisting their compatriots both in and out of combat -- was uncommon until recently, but more RPGs (notably, D&D 4th edition) include it now.
  • Builds: Bureaucrat, Crime Lord, Platoon Leader
Court Crafter
  • A Crafter working for the noble houses, skilled in social skills as well as magic. Court magicians and soothsayers have a long history in fiction but not in roleplaying, and I sought to change that.
  • Builds: Counselor, Relicsmith
  • Another character type usually represented only in modern or future RPGs and abandoned in fantasy, the courtier knows everyone and puts people together -- particularly appropriate for a campaign filled with court politics and class warfare.
  • Builds: Attendant, Information Merchant
  • One of the few archetypes designed for the world outside the City, the Explorer is an expert in the wilderness and foreign cultures.
  • Builds: Ranger, Realmshifter
  • A character type often lumped in with the Burglar, the mountebank is a con artist, an expert in deceit -- again, forgotten in fantasy where the PCs only interact with quest-givers and monsters, but appropriate to an urban setting.
  • Builds: Master of Disguise, Swindler
  • The scientist and medic -- often neglected in fantasy games, I feel it is vital in a world with the approximate technology level of the 18th century.
  • Builds: Artificer, Physician, Sage
  • Priests in many RPGs are magic-users, calling down the gods' wrath or healing word, the City has no interventionist deities. Therefore, these priests fulfill a social role more like their historical models, wielding political influence and soothing wounded souls.
  • Builds: Cultist, Lightspeaker
  • The basic "fighter" type, whether a professional or amateur. A core and simple character type.
  • Builds: Archer, Duelist, Thug
Street Crafter
  • In a magic-rich society, it only makes sense that the street magicians and traveling fortune-tellers  have genuine magical abilities. That's what this archetype is.
  • Builds: Fortune-Teller, Performer
  • A specialist in money and goods. Arguably the least exciting and adventurous archetype in the game, but I think it has potential.
  • Builds: Caravaner, Junk Merchant
There are obviously other types of character to create: Dragonriders, magical archers, ninja, but my archetypes cover most of the kinds of characters likely to appear in The City of Lives. With these archetypes in place, players have guidance but also freedom. Join me next time as we continue Character Generation for Phases.